What was behind Seavey’s stops and starts? Her pauses, I surmised, disguised a feeling of being so overwhelmed by a world that in her view had gone mad. It left her at times unable to talk. Gays being allowed to marry?Seavey was fueled by outrage and a sense of injustice. Things were terribly wrong, and she was powerless to do anything about it.
It was Seavey who now felt like the outsider. And that realization turned out to be my “aha” moment.
Seavey felt trapped on the margins as the world was passing her by. Laws were being approved and her leaders didn’t seem to care what she had to say. My connection with Seavey and others ironically and surprisingly came from my own sense of alienation, not just as someone who is gay but also as someone who was adopted and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. (My dad was a rabbi.)
As I child and onward to adulthood, I have always felt like I was looking in from the periphery, wanting to be accepted but never quite fitting in. Those feelings proved to be my portal to imagining what their world is like. And now I could tell their complex and heartfelt stories in their own weird and wonderful way.
For the duration of the campaign, the “No” side was a true powerhouse. Operationally, they were organized and strategic, running a field campaign that had figured out with military precision (down to the number of knocks on doors needed per day) how to successfully hit their targets.
Quite a different picture emerged on the “Yes” side, where 10 days before the election, the local staff was gathered around a conference table still not knowing what their game plan was for the upcoming critical “get out the vote” phase.
Polls had us up. And even Marc Mutty in the last week proclaimed, “If we win this, it will be a miracle.” But something that happened during the last days told me a win wasn’t in our cards.
Sacramento felt that the public was tiring of the school issue and decided to shift gears. A new ad was developed in which voters were basically given permission to vote “yes” with a clear conscious.
“It’s possible to support the civil rights of all,” implored the warm and friendly voice of the ad, “without redefining traditional marriage.” The ad then went on to list all the benefits that gays and lesbians could get under existing laws like civil unions. It was a stroke of genius, I thought, and one that I imagined could be a game-changer – especially to those few still left in the movable middle.
No one saw it coming. Our side was a little stumped when trying to imagine what Schubert’s “silver bullet” would be in the final days. But what I found even more disturbing was a creeping complacency and over-confidence. The attitude was buoyed by the polling, the huge amount of money raised and the constant stream of national media attention the campaign was getting. While not affecting the operational intensity of the campaign, it might have dulled the sharpness from their overall strategic thinking.
Should I break my pledge and tell them what was coming? Could I even hint a little bit?
I didn’t. I soldiered on, dying to say what I knew but self-assured that when the ad ran, my team would know what to do.
The ad ran. And to my surprise there was no direct counter. No ad hit back to say, civil unions are not the same as marriage. Nothing takes the place of marriage. Here are the consequences of not being allowed to marry.